We do join in congratulating the actress, Nicole Kidman AC. On Friday, 13 April 2007 the Governor General conferred on her Australia’s highest honour, making her a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia. But we cannot help recalling the observation of Canadian Richard Toporoavski on this award reported in this column on 12 February 2006.
He said that the fact that the announcement of her appointment went almost entirely unnoticed in the international media, when appointments such as those of Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Dame Julie Andrews, and Dame Judi Dench (or the Australian Dame Joan Sutherland and the New Zealander Dame Kiri Te Kanawa), were reported even in the Canadian press. He says Olivia Newton-John garnered more news coverage when she was appointed merely an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E). He suggests that the honour conferred by a system created on a purely nationalist basis is considerably less (even in the eyes of what the world finds noteworthy) than that flowing from The Queen.
One reservation that we made to his thoughtful and considered view is that awards within the Order of Australia are in fact made in the name of the Sovereign, although the practice of submitting the list of recommendations to The Queen personally was, I believe, abandoned at the direction of the former Prime Minister Paul Keating.
When we reported Mr. Toporoavski’s remarks in this column we argued that it was surely time that the fourth level of the Order of Australia were reinstated, so that once again, AK’s ( knighthoods) and AD’s –the title Dame – could be awarded.
As I understand it, the objection by the more egalitarian among us is not usually to the knighthood itself, but to the title or accolade which accompanies it.
So why not restore the fourth level, the knighthood, which after all exists in many republics, and make the accolade and title optional, as was the practice with most Anglican but not Catholic Archbishops? Accordingly we had Cardinal Sir Norman Gilroy, but I think only one Anglican with the title.
A less attractive alternative would be not to award a formal title, as in many countries, including republics. But to say, for example, that Nicole Kidman has been made a Dame, or General Peter Cosgrove a Knight indicates an internationally and domestically recognised distinction, and one which being made an AC just does not achieve.